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Regional flu cases cause concern

Regional flu cases cause concern

But Cambodian officials say they are prepared to respond to pandemic.

WITH 19 countries having suspected  or confirmed cases of swine flu - one case as close as South Korea - Cambodia's health authorities remain alert but confident that the country is prepared for a swine flu  pandemic.

The surveillance infrastructure already laid down to prevent bird flu "helps an awful lot" with the current situation, said Dr Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the World Health Organisation.

"Having created a network and a surveillance system, we can now use that to see if there is an increase in the number of respiratory diseases.... Then we can go into more detail and do lab testing to see if it's swine flu," Asgari said.

On Tuesday, airport authorities dusted off and fixed their thermal imaging scanners, but Asgari says relying on scanners is not enough. Simple educational steps can make a big difference.

"Much more important than thermal imaging is giving passengers information about what to do when they feel sick," he said.

In terms of ensuring that infected pigs do not spread the disease to Cambodia, the Cambodian Pig Raiser Association said it has told the government it should ban live pig imports.

But Khlauk Chuon, the deputy director of Camcontrol at the Ministry of Commerce, said they would only ban live pig imports from a country that has been hit with swine flu.

"We are very worried about this new disease because it can transfer from pig to human, from human to human and from human to pig," Khlauk Chuon added.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation said it would test pig samples from risk areas like urban slaughterhouses and border checkpoints to ensure that swine flu has not infected the pig population.

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